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Original Issue

Autumn's Golden Quest

Among the 14 million hunters who will go out this autumn very few will have less game to show for their pains than the pair at right gliding softly through the golden beauty of a Maryland marsh. Balanced on the slender bottom of a cedar skiff, they are searching out a rare and tiny target called the rail-bird. If they find him and flush him, he will fly quickly and very low for no more than 20 yards before he slips back into the tangle of butterweed flowers. If the hunter is quick enough to get a shot off and to hit him, the bird may be impossible to retrieve. And if the men do manage to get him back, he will cook down to no more than two shot-filled ounces. Why, then, do the hunters bother, when the bird is so small and the only tangible results from a shot may be the instantaneous loss of balance, followed by a pratfall into the weeds? The picture gives the answer: the magic of a salt marsh in September, when the wind is light from the northwest, the sky is autumn-clear, the only sound the rustle of reeds against the skiff. And for a very few precious days, when the butterweed blooms, the whole visible world glows a brilliant yellow gold.